50/50 (2011) Directed by Jonathan Levine. With Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard and Anjelica Huston.
A Hollywood comedy/drama centred around a young man dealing with a horrific cancer diagnosis, featuring Seth Rogen doing his ‘Knocked Up’ shtick, interspersed with a soundtrack of middle of the road rock songs. So far, so potentially awful, right? Well, and pleasingly, director Jonathan Levine’s film is a well balanced act of great humour, romance and touching drama.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt takes the lead as Adam, a seemingly healthy young man whom we first meet on one of his regular jogging sessions. Adam is one of those risk averse types, a man who takes good care of himself and has the dream ticket of a beautiful girlfriend (Bryce Dallace Howard) and an interesting job. Then comes the inevitable.
Helping Adam come to terms with the shock of his diagnosis is Kyle (Rogen), whose brand of humour isn’t much out of skew from what we’ve seen in Rogen’s previous work, but given the subject matter, works well within the piece. Kyle’s teen-brained, sex obsessed and all round good time sensibilities, are a welcome counterbalance to Adam’s crushing news. Moreover, it’s immediately evident that Kyle deeply cares about his friend, which gives way to an inherent sweetness that casts the blow job gags in a light that isn’t all about getting cheap laughs. The supporting cast also includes Anjelica Huston and Anna Kendrick, both of who, give integral and deftly funny performances.
50/50 isn’t a film that you’d come to easily, but it’s a very even minded look at difficult subject matter. There aren’t many cancer comedies out there, and with good reason, however this script is smart enough to only delve momentarily into the heartbreak, choosing instead a cautiously optimistic tone that won’t ruin your day. 4/5